Microsoft has made its cross-platform framework for model-based machine learning, Infer.NET, available on GitHub under the permissive MIT license for free use in commercial applications.
The machine learning engine is used across many Microsoft products, including Azure, Office 365 and Xbox.
Infer.NET started life as a research tool and has been used in the formation of hundreds of academic papers, in a variety of fields, ranging from information retrieval to healthcare.
First developed in 2004 by Microsoft’s research lab in Cambridge, Infer.NET enables a model-based approach to machine learning. Yordan Zaykov, principal research software engineering lead with the team behind Infer.NET, said in a blog post that this allows developers to incorporate domain knowledge into your model:
“The framework can then build a bespoke machine learning algorithm directly from that model. This means that instead of having to map your problem onto a pre-existing learning algorithm that you’ve been given, Infer.NET actually constructs a learning algorithm for you, based on the model you’ve provided.”
An added advantage of the framework is interpretability:
“If you have designed the model yourself and the learning algorithm follows that model, then you can understand why the system behaves in a particular way or makes certain predictions.
As machine learning applications gradually enter our lives, understanding and explaining their behavior becomes increasingly more important.
Growing the AI framework
Zaykov said his team was looking forward to engaging with the open-source community in developing and growing the framework further. Infer.NET will become a part of ML.NET – the machine learning framework for .NET developers.
“We have already taken several steps towards integration with ML.NET, like setting up the repository under the .NET Foundation and moving the package and namespaces to Microsoft.ML.Probabilistic. Infer.NET will extend ML.NET for statistical modelling and online learning,” said Zaykov.
In 2012 Infer.NET won a Patents for Humanity award for aiding research in epidemiology, genetic causes of disease, deforestation and asthma.
Internet of Business says
Infer.NET is a capable machine learning framework, not least because of its support for online Bayesian inference – the ability of the system to learn as new data arrives. This is essential in business and consumer products that interact with users in real-time.
It also allows the sort of transparency many machine learning methods lack, at a time when people are becoming much more aware of the dangers of black box AI and data bias, and calls for transparent neural networks are on the rise.
Infer.NET’s newfound open-source nature will breath new life into it as it sees further development and wider applications.
Microsoft has recently given new impetus to its efforts in the AI space, as well as support for robotics development. The tech giant also has designs on the automotive industry, as demonstrated by their recent cloud partnership with Volkswagen.